From the rooftop bar of the JW Marriott Hotel Rio de Janeiro …
We’re here, but today didn’t go quite according to plan.
After a 30 minute delay due to difficulties removing the tow bar from the plane, the overnight flight from Newark to São Paulo was uneventful. I even got some halfway decent sleep overnight, a rarity for me on a plane. Despite our careful planning I ended up a few rows alway from Donna, John, and Julianna after United shuffled our seat assignments. Still we made it to Brazil, but more adjustments to the plan were forthcoming.
It turns out the São Paulo Airport (Guarulhos) is much bigger than we though it was. We spent a few hours at the São Paulo airport getting coffee and something to eat, then went to find our gate for the trip from São Paolo to Rio de Janeiro on LATAM flight 3070. And by the time we found the gate we just missed our flight. So we waited an hour and a half to retrieve our bags – they take them off the flight here instead of flying them to your destination. Then an hour and a half bus ride to Congonhas – the other São Paolo airport.
At Congonhas we booked LATAM flight 3950 to Rio and and arrived about 7:30p. We took a taxi through the city to our hotel, the JW Marriott Hotel Rio de Janeiro – right on Copacabana Beach. We check in and head for the rooftop bar to toast our arrival and celebrate spending the last 30 hours in airports and airplanes. Tomorrow we meet our tour guide, Marcio Boechat, and see the Rio landmarks. Thanks for reading! More tomorrow.
From Newark Liberty International Airport …
So you’re thinking a picture of an apple pie is probably an unusual visual to kick-off a trip to Brazil – but this apple pie is the key to the story behind this trip.
Last Thanksgiving, as I usually do, I baked an apple pie and posted a picture on Facebook. The same pie at the top of this post. Donna’s brother John saw the pie post and commented, “… next Thanksgiving, please come down to Brazil … can you guys make that happen!?”
A week later, after a quick conversation, Donna, John, Julianna, and I decided to travel to Brazil for Thanksgiving in Penápolis with John, Lori, Andy, and Clara! Over a few planning sessions last spring, me and Donna worked out the details of the trip. We would fly from DC to Newark to São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro – trust me, this made the most logistic sense. We would spend a couple of days touring Rio with a guide, then fly to Araçatuba and on to Penápolis. We would spend several days in Penápolis with John and his family including Thanksgiving dinner! After Thanksgiving we would drive to São Paulo and spend a couple days there. Then we would return to DC on a direct flight from São Paulo. So after months of planning we are finally on the way! We left late this afternoon on United flight 1972 from Dulles to Newark Liberty International Airport and arrived about an hour ago.
We’ve got a long enough layover for dinner at Abruzzo Italian Steakhouse in Newark and time for me to write the first post of the trip.
In a while we start our overnight flight to Brazil on United 149 from Newark to São Paulo/Guarulhos–Governador André Franco Montoro International Airport. More tomorrow.
I’m back with the Southeast Asia gear and workflow update. Every trip requires a carefully considered pack list that balances the demands of international shooting locations with the willingness (or ability!) to carry a certain amount of equipment. This trip was travel intensive with a 20+ hour trip from Boston to Ho Chi Minh City through Hong Kong, a short flight to Siem Reap, an all-day bus ride to Bangkok featuring a walk across the Cambodia/Thailand border, and another 20+ hour trip from Bangkok back to Boston. Packing and carrying the right gear requires careful planning and using the resulting assets requires a solid workflow. So, as I did for India, Cuba, Peru, Galapagos, and South Africa, here is an overview of the gear I carried to Southeast Asia and the photo and video workflow I used to handle the media files when I returned.
For Southeast Asia I brought along mostly the same gear that I’ve used on recent trips:
Nikon D750 24 MP FX DSLR: The D750 is a great travel camera! Paired with the 28-300mm the combination of image quality and portability for stills and video is outstanding. Last year I wrote that it’s tempting to upgrade to the D850 – 4K video would be useful and that touchscreen display looks pretty cool. I also wrote that while the compact size of mirrorless cameras is tempting for travel, I think the autofocus systems of the smaller cameras isn’t quite advanced as the autofocus systems offered by full-size DSLRs. But Nikon announced the Z series mirrorless cameras in August of 2018. The Z6 takes design cues from the D850, shoots 4K video, has a touchscreen display, and improved autofocus made even better by the recent 2.0 firmware update. After returning from Southeast Asia I decided to take the plunge. I picked up a Z6 camera with the NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S lens. As similar as the Z6 is to the D750, it’s definitely a different kind of shooting experience. I’ll have more to say in an upcoming blog post.
NIKKOR 28-300mm AF-S f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Travel Zoom: I really enjoying traveling with this lens. Great image quality and range from a single lens in a size that’s easy to carry on planes, trains, ships, buses, and just walking down the street.
DJI Osmo Pocket: I upgraded from the DJI Osmo Mobile 2 for this trip. This gimbal/stabilizer provides a great platform for silky smooth video, timelapse, and motionlapse sequences. I’ll miss that the Osmo Mobile 2 internal battery could be used as a smartphone charger, but the tiny size of the Osmo Pocket can’t be beat for travel. It’s great for crowded street scenes, shooting from the bus while rolling down a bumpy highway, and getting a different video perspective than a DLSR provides.
Vanguard Kinray Lite 45 backpack: Holds a full frame camera and a couple of lenses with ease with enough room leftover for a creatively-packed change of clothes. Works for carrying photo gear on a plane and as a daypack moving through the daily itinerary. A great travel bag, but unfortunately no longer made by Vanguard. I’ve been traveling with this bag for a number of years and it’s starting to show a little wear. I’ve been looking for a comparable replacement, but so far nothing fits the bill.
I replaced the Newtrent Travelpak+ with the PocketJuice Endurance AC travel battery and USB charger. A travel battery with a foldable plug is a must for me and the PocketJuice has one. But the PocketJuice doesn’t have pass-through charging capability – you can’t plug it in to charge its battery and charge the phone simultaneously. So the PocketJuice has been replaced with the Ventev Powercell 6010+.
Monster Power Outlets To Go travel extension cord: This short cord extension is all that’s needed. Includes three outlets to plugin a couple of camera battery chargers for overnight camera battery charging and a the travel battery. And a USB port to charge the iPhone 8 and the DJI Osmo Pocket.
Nikon ME-1 microphone: I still don’t use this as often as I should. The Aokatec AK-G750 GPS receiver must be removed from the D750 accessory terminal in order the plug in the ME-1. But much better than the D750 internal mic and great for windy conditions.
Each 64GB card holds about 1,500 12-bit NEF files. (See 14-bit vs 12-bit RAW – Can You Tell The Difference at Photography Life.) I used a 64GB card in slot 1 of the D750 to store NEF raw photo files. In slot 2 I used a 64GB card with the D750 set to store large size JPEG normal quality backups at about 10.2MB per image.
About halfway through the trip, as is my usual practice, I swapped out the initial set of SD cards for the second set. At the end of the trip, between the D750, the iPhone 8, and the DJI Osmo Pocket I ended up with 1,551 picture files totaling 36.49GB. That’s a shooting rate of about 111 per day – a little higher than my average of 100 photos per day on international trips.
|Nikon D750 NEF files
|iPhone 8 HEIC files
|DJI Osmo Pocket DNG
Between the D750, iPhone 8, and Osmo Pocket I ended up with 522 movie files totaling 56.05GB.
|DJI Osmo Pocket
For the daily trip blog updates I used the D750’s built-in Wi-Fi to connect via the Nikon Wireless Mobile Utility App installed on the iPhone 8. Once connected it was easy to select pictures to transfer to the phone, and then incorporate those photos in the daily trip blog updates using the WordPress Mobile App. Internet access in Southeast Asia was good. Fairly consistent LTE coverage or Wi-Fi access. Between uploading photos, drafting the content, and finding someone to proof the daily blog updates take about an hour each day to complete. But on travel with long air or bus or train trips between cities – like this trip to Southeast Asia – it’s great to sit back, watch the countryside go by your window, and spend some time working on the day’s blog post!
My standard workflow for photos and video remains the same. I’m working with what is now known as Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic for photo management and editing – using the Creative Cloud Photography plan.
Last year I dropped keywording as a workflow step and substituted sorting into collections. I wasn’t really using the keywords and it wasn’t worth the time it was taking to add them. And I find using collections really helps to identify the best images – those I want to focus on for post-processing. The revised simplified version of the workflow is:
Video files are digitized using Apple Final Cut Pro X to events named by date and location. After import files are renamed by date and time.
With all trip photo and video files transferred I confirm onsite and offsite backups are complete (using CrashPlan for Small Business to manage both backups) and then reformat the SDXC and SDHC cards for use on the next project. Now it’s time to get to work on the photo gallery, book, and the trip video!
From home after a couple of days to catch up on sleep and unpack …
On Tuesday after a short but restful sleep at the nearby Courtyard Marriott I’m back on Eastern Standard Time and back at Logan for the return flight to DC. I swap travel stories on the shuttle to Logan with a woman returning from the Philippines and passing through Boston way back home to Nova Scotia. We both had lengthy flying days on Monday and appreciated the chance to rest up before continuing home. The airport is busy as airlines continue to get back on track following the recent snowstorm. They are still clearing snow from the airfield at Logan.
My first class return was lost when I rescheduled the trip to come up a day early due to weather a couple of weeks ago. No luck on the refund yet. I’ve been directed to call “reservations.” I’ll deal with that after I get home, but I do enjoy a couple of hours in the United Club lounge trying not to appear too surly that my plan for a comfortable seat after the 20 hour 8,500 mile flying marathon is a no go. United Flight 525 to Dulles features a lovely aisle seat in economy.
Sonia meets me at the airport for a ride back to our neighborhood. I always appreciate the opportunity to pass up the local ground transportation options for the last leg of the trip, so I am grateful for the lift! I drag my 46.7 pound suitcase up the three flights of stairs, open the door, bring in the suitcase and camera bag, and this adventure is done!
Back at home it’s time to reflect on the trip – our tour guides, the countries we’ve visited, and my fellow travelers.
Explorica features an outstanding network of tour guides. They are more than just authorities on local history and culture. Dong Nguyen Khoi in Vietnam, Thara Ukbun in Cambodia, Suthep Pattanan in Thailand are logistics experts, information resources, and one-man concierge services. Khoi’s heartfelt observations about the Vietnam War were moving, but he could also be a stand up comedian. We’ll be talking for years about Thara’s brilliant plan for the boat to boat transfer to get us on the Chao Pryaya River dinner cruise. Suthep’s dining and massage recommendations were excellent and he read the entire travel blog!
We spent many hours traveling by bus in Thailand and our bus driver Aek was one of the best. Working without an assistant he loaded all the luggage, had tissue ready to hand out at each rest stop, and distributed cold water bottles, cool towelettes, and candy when we got back to the bus. And he helped Brad and Suthep with traveler counts to confirm we all got back on board. It’s not uncommon for bus drivers on these trips to sleep on their bus. Aek did the same. After dropping us off at a hotel he would find a place to park the bus and stay with the bus for the night before picking us up the next morning.
If you travel to this part of the world, consider seeing these three countries on the same trip. Recovery from recent wars is ever-present … the “American War” in Vietnam, the civil war in Cambodia, and World War 2 in Thailand. But even more present is the kindness and generosity of the Southeast Asian people. Everywhere we went people were always friendly and willing to assist a group of tourists.
In all three countries there are street vendors everywhere and at all hours of the day or night. People in Southeast Asia love food from a street vendor. In all three countries motorbikes are the primary means of getting around. Motorbikes are a great way to beat traffic, so much so that in Ho Chi Minh City we frequently saw people get around stop lights just by driving on the sidewalks. In many cases in Ho Chi Minh City sidewalks were blocked by street vendors and motorbike parking requiring stepping into the street to get around the blockage. Maybe it was just the places where we stayed or maybe it’s a local preference, but the beds in Cambodia and Thailand were as hard as those we encountered in China.
This was my 8th trip with Brad and the Milford travelers, dating back to the China trip in 2009. International travel with a group of experienced travelers is key and makes traveling with this group of people a great experience. Brad is a master planner and these trips go so well based on his ability to read the group and make adjustments to the itinerary on the fly when needed. It’s always a pleasure when Nancy, Georgia, and Sue join Brad. They are great to travel with and now Sue has new luggage as a souvenir from this trip.
Ron’s hearty laugh and unmistakable camera shutter are always welcome to hear – even knowing I will have to edit them out of the video. He doesn’t miss anything and his photo documentation of the trips is outstanding. Marguerite has been on all of the Dr. Craven trips I’ve been on. If she had been my Spanish teacher I might have actually learned Spanish. She is also a FitBit master. I cannot keep up with her steps! Carol is always a joy to travel with and she can identify the local birds no matter where we are in the world. I spent close to 35 hours sitting next to Phyllis on the way to Hong Kong and back. We are inherently in sync on an airplane. I would sit with Phyllis on a flight to anywhere in the world. Greg P is an accomplished traveler and could be a one-man economic development office for Milford. I’m ready to relocate!
Bernie always keeps things light with a joke or witty remark. Jessica has a great eye for finding the perfect photo locations. I’ll admit to following Jessica around for a great angle. Jimmy is a regular traveler. Sometimes his mom Carmen comes along and sometimes his aunt joins us. On this trip it’s great to spend some time with aunt Anayansi. Cara is an experienced international traveler and a masterful phone photographer.
Sometimes Shannon and Peter host a couple of overnights while we are meeting up and leaving Boston, but it’s a lot more fun when they are on a trip! An extra bonus is their perpetual search for good Pad Thai and Dim Sum guarantees an excellent meal no matter where we are in the world. Greg H was also on the Peru trip. He is a keen observer of anyplace we are visiting with a wry sense of humor.
It seems like we only see each other in another country, but no matter where we are it’s always great to spend time with Mickey and Donna.
Whether it’s proofreading the daily posting, providing suggestions for the blog, or sharing photos on the bus Mickey and Donna are great friends to travel with. I’m always looking forward to our next great adventure!
Thank you to those of you who followed along and read the daily postings! Here are some of my favorites from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand …
Onboard Cathay Pacific flight 812 …
I’m up at 6:30a and have breakfast at a nearby Starbucks. It’s Monday morning in Bangkok’s financial district, so there are many people heading to work and the street vendors are busy.
Check out of The Heritage Hotel Bangkok is at 9a. Then we’re on the bus for a ride through Bangkok to Suvarnabhumi Airport. Bangkok is a massive city. Over 600 square miles and about 8 million residents. Fairfax County is just over 400 square miles with 1.1 million residents.
Mickey and Donna depart at 12p heading to Taipei and then on to Los Angeles. We’re in a different terminal so I miss out on some quality airport time with these two and instead pass the time exchanging my remaining Thai baht for US dollars. We board Cathay Pacific flight 614 to Hong Kong leaving at 1:05p. I watch The Incredibles 2. My one word review … Awesome!
There’s not much time for our transfer in Hong Kong. Once we get through security and get to the gate it’s about time to board Cathay Pacific flight 812 from Hong Kong to Boston. But like our flight from Boston to Hong Kong, we are delayed about 90 minutes so they can change a tire on the plane. Once we are on the way we pass over Taipei and Japan. We fly over Mount Fuji, but it’s too dark to see anything. Our route takes us over the Aleutian Islands, Anchorage, across Canada, and then on into the continental United States. The sun sets just after we board, rises around the time we pass over the Aleutian Islands, and sets again just before we get to the Great Lakes. I decide that on this flight that I’m going to try and stay up to get back into east coast time. I get by with a couple of quick naps. It’s a long flight, but I’ve got some Game of Thrones episodes to watch.
In Boston we will pass through immigration and customs, say our goodbyes at Logan Airport, and then head our separate ways until the next trip.
Tonight I’m staying at the same Courtyard Marriott as I was in when I flew up to Boston at the start of the trip. I’ve got a Tuesday morning flight back to DC and I’ll post a recap of the trip then.